The question of whether fishing is a sport or a hobby is often contested. Many people find it hard to fathom whether fishing can be classed as a sport or not.
The idea of someone sitting by a lake with a rod waiting for a fish to bite doesn’t seem to cut it in their minds, but there is a lot more to fishing than that!
In this article, I am going to run through exactly why fishing is both a sport and a hobby, as it all depends on how you approach it.
Is Fishing Considered A Sport?
Sport is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
So, does fishing tick all the boxes that define a sport? Let’s take a look.
How Much Skill Is Involved In Fishing?
If you are an angler, you will already know how much skill and knowledge is required to catch fish. For those of you who don’t fish or want to know a little more, let’s discuss this in detail.
Before you even leave the house to go fishing, you have to decide which species of fish you want to target and which form of fishing you want to use to catch them. There are thousands of different species of fish anglers can target and each species requires different tactics, tackle, and bait as each one behaves in its own way.
This means for anglers to target multiple species, they have to understand where each fish lives, what they like to eat, where they want to hang out, and what seasons are best to target them in.
Let’s take, for example, heading out to catch a trout in a river using a fly rod. The angler has to learn how to cast a fly rod, which can take years to master. Understanding how to pick a river, where to fish, figuring out what flies are hatching at the given time of year, and how to fish with those flies.
Once they get to the river, rigging the rod with the right knots, leader length, breaking strain and flies is also key. Then they have to read the river and understand where trout like to sit in the river.
The angler then has to present the right fly to the unsuspecting trout in the most natural way possible. They will have to take into account current, depth, and numerous other factors.
If they manage to hook a fish, successfully landing it takes a lot of experience when using a very light line such as 4 lb leaders. The fish can easily snap the line on the bottom, jump and spit the hook, run down the river, and often create new scenarios that take us by surprise.
This involves a considerable amount of skill and knowledge. Gaining these skills takes commitment and time to master, and applies to all forms of fishing.
Is There Physical Exertion In Fishing?
The general picture most non-anglers have of fishing is sitting around waiting for a bite and doing nothing. Many anglers would disagree with this view, certain fishing styles can require a lot of physical activity.
Let’s return to the example of fly fishing in a river for alpine lake trout. The angler has to wade up a river all day long battling the current and hiking around mountain paths and rugged terrain so they can make their way up the river and continue catching fish. It is tiring, believe me, especially after 8 hours of it.
Now, let’s look at a different example, catching a big marlin of up to 1000 lbs offshore. Sure, the first part is a waiting game while skill is involved to find and hook the marlin. The angler is strapped to the rod with a harness and may have to fight the fish for over 12 hours depending on its behavior. One moment without concentration and you can lose the fish, it is a tiring experience and comes with a lot of pressure.
Are There Fishing Competitions?
Fishing competitions are held all over the world consistently. Some of them, such as the offshore tournaments and bass competitions in the United States have prizes of over a million dollars.
These types of competitions are entered by individual anglers or teams of anglers who compete against each other while following certain rules that are strictly upheld. If that doesn’t define a sport, then what does?
To add to this, there are multiple global competitions where fishing teams and individuals represent their country to compete against each other. These competitions are organized by the International Confederation of Sports Fishing, known as CIPS.
Check out the links below for the specific fishing organization competitions held each year.
As an example, the World Fly Fishing Championships are held every year and more than 24 different countries compete against each other. It can be considered as the Olympics of fly fishing, and without a doubt, makes fishing a sport in this scenario.
These competitions cover different age groups, disability anglers, ladies, and a vast range of fishing styles including ice fishing! and black bass fishing.
These competitions involve serious rules, judges watching to ensure the rules are followed, and the fish caught are logged meticulously to ensure that the competition is run fairly.
Is Fishing Considered A Hobby?
A hobby is defined as “an activity is done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure” and this is, without doubt, how most anglers treat fishing.
Every competitive angler on the planet started out their fishing career by using it as a hobby.
I can almost guarantee that any spare moment they had, they would be out on a river, lake, or the sea, learning, practicing, and enjoying time in nature with the chance of catching a fish or two.
But, once they became masters of fishing, simply treating fishing as a hobby wasn’t enough for them and they had to take it further. This would have involved joining say the Finish Fly Fishing Team or getting a boat and creating an offshore team to compete in tournaments.
Fishing as a hobby is also a wonderful thing and an old pastime. Both my father and grandfather reserved Sundays for fishing and would go fishing every Sunday without question, enjoying their leisure time as best they could.
Is Fishing A Sport Or A Hobby For You?
Now that we know that fishing is both a sport and a hobby, which one is it for you? In all honesty, it can be both, as it all comes down to how you approach fishing.
If you love to go pleasure fishing on a summer evening fishing with your dog beside you or go on fishing camping adventures for the weekend, then fishing is most certainly a hobby for you.
But, if you go fishing as a form of training for an upcoming competition, then you are training for a sport. You will be practicing your casting, researching your target species, looking for better baits, rigs, tactics, and more so that you can catch as many fish as possible within the competition rules and perhaps win.
As an angler, you can choose whether you consider fishing as a sport or a hobby based on how you go about it. But, there is no question that fishing in general is certainly both a sport and a hobby!
Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.